Review: Total Recall

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by Justin Jasso

It has to be a difficult task for a filmmaker to remake a film of any kind. It’s probably even more difficult for a filmmaker to remake a film and make it his or her “own”, especially when a film is remembered so well. It was 22 years ago that we were brought the original telling of Total Recall, with Arnold Schwarzenegger at his peak of movie stardom. The difficulty for director Len Wiseman was to recreate the essence of Total Recall while giving it more than just a facelift. One of the great advantages of remaking a movie is being given the opportunity to remedy some of the problems in the original. Unfortunately, while some problems were remedied, others arise and we’re left with something unremarkable.

In the future, a global biological war has left the vast majority of the planet uninhabitable. Parts of Great Britain and Australia, however, are still capable of supporting life but are grossly overpopulated. Class warfare is erupting with the “Rebel Alliance” led by the messianic figure of Matthias (Bill Nighy) and the “Empire” controlled by Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston). Behind Cohaagen is a group of soldiers which highly resemble Storm Troopers and Clone Troopers from Attack of the Clones. Matthias, on the other hand, is backed by “rebels”. As for Mars, well, it’s there, but this re-visioning takes place on Earth.

Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is one of many grunts who makes a daily high-speed trip called “The Fall” from Australia to Great Britain through the Earth’s core. It takes about 17 minutes. Quaid’s daily routine is the same; he always sits next to Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), his best friend for as long as he can remember. When the day is over, he comes home to his loving wife of seven years, Lori (Kate Beckinsale). But there’s something missing from his life and he only discovers what it is when a trip to Rekall, a corporation that will give you whatever memory you want to help improve your life in these hard times, uncovers a startling truth. It turns out that Quaid hasn’t merely been having dreams where he is a secret agent, he actually is one. But he has no memories of his life as “Hauser” and no idea what he was like or who he was working for. Was he Cohaagen’s right-hand man or a turncoat who went to work for the rebels? And who is Melina (Jessica Biel), the dark-haired beauty who appears in his dreams?

There are some differences between the new and old. The first is tone. The 1990 Total Recall was justifiably rated R for its brutality. It also had a dark sense of humor. Wiseman has toned down the violence to get the coveted PG-13 rating. His universe isn’t kinder or gentler, but he doesn’t show things as graphically as director Paul Verhoeven did in the original. The black comedy has also been muted, resulting in a more generic approach. On the other hand, the 2012 interpretation is more action-oriented. It almost feels as if once some pushed the action snowball down the hill, it just continues to pick up steam until it hits something and comes to a crashing stop at the end. Action junkies, you will most definitely be entertained!

Farrell’s interpretation of “Quaid / Hauser” is, predictably, much different than Schwarzenegger’s. It’s a less tongue-in-cheek approach with no flippant one-liners. Farrell’s interpretation is more low-key and introverted, which is a nice contrast to see. Kate Beckinsale, on the other hand, is given the task of playing two characters from the original, all combined into one. One may call her character “bipolar to the nth degree” which would be fair, and she channels her inner Underworld action potential for all of her action scenes. Jessica Biel is adequate in her portrayal of Melina with most of her scenes consisting of action (catching on to this action thing here?) For all the actors, they are limited by the script and many times it feels as if they are just saying their lines without any real feeling behind them, which ends up giving them a cardboard cutout version of a character. But this is an action film, after all, and does one truly go to the movies to see deep character growth and relationship development?

Total Recall is what we expect a summer blockbuster film to be: huge action, lots of explosions and an adrenaline rush, but it’s also completely forgettable. It will leave the audience member’s head the moment they walk out of the theater and go on with their day. This is one recall you wouldn’t necessarily choose to have implanted.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars


    One Comment

  1. kadoshoAugust 9th, 2012 at 10:52 am

    I remember watching the original Total Recall many years ago. It still makes me wonder what filmmakers aren’t capable of making. (Since Ghost in the Shell, I still want to see that happen) But cyberpunk is one of those genre’s that never refuses to die. Hopefully the next film that tries to deliver new energy will be more memorable, and not just a remake.

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